On Thursday morning, a man named Floyd Ray Roseberry from Grover, North Carolina parked a truck on the sidewalk near the Cannon House Office Building at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. and phoned a bomb threat in to police. Then, he apparently started to broadcast on Facebook Live.
In a long and rambling diatribe, much of it directed at President Joe Biden, Roseberry claims he has a bomb rigged to detonate if he is shot. He claims the bomb was built by someone with military training, and that there are other individuals with bombs elsewhere in the city. He talks of revolution, and calls on other “patriots” to join his cause. He mentions several grievances, ranging from President Biden’s handling of recent events in Afghanistan to problems with his personal healthcare.
He says Democrats are “killing America,” that President Biden’s election was illegitimate, and that Democrats need to step down. “Y’all need to understand people don’t want you there.”
At Talking Points Media, Josh Marshall reviewed multiple videos posted by Roseberry, and also concluded “his core grievance seemed to be focused on the illegitimacy of Joe Biden and his need to resign from office.”
The event follows more than a year of false claims about the 2020 election by former President Donald Trump, dozens of Congressional Republicans, and other media and political elites aligned with the former President. Termed the “Big Lie” by some researchers and observers, the false claim that the election was illegitimate has been repeated by such elites in thousands of social media posts, media appearances and in official proceedings.
In Facebook video, Capitol bomb threat suspect repeatedly invokes Trump and the fall of Kabul. Attacks Biden and Pelosi. Says Trump will become President again after Biden is driven from office. Says Trump will then pardon everyone.— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) August 19, 2021
The Big Lie contributed to the beliefs held by many of the insurrectionists that stormed the Capitol on January 6th. Congressional and Senate Republicans played an important role in propagating the Big Lie. Some even lauded the insurrection as it happened, or sought to defend or excuse the insurrectionists after the fact by claiming their concerns about election integrity were valid. For instance, the lawyer for a Texan who participated in the insurrection said his client “really thought Ted Cruz was going to come out and congratulate them and thank them for being there and letting their voices be heard.” Senator Cruz (R-TX), along with Senator Josh Hawley, (R-MO), played an important part in substantiating the concerns of those who claimed voter fraud.
Just as Roseberry used Facebook to broadcast his concerns, social media has played an important role in propagating the Big Lie. The Select Committee now investigating the insurrection is tasked with looking at the role of the platforms in facilitating the violence that day.
But, social media platforms have been slow to admit any role in actions resulting from false beliefs about the outcome of the election. For instance, at a March 25 hearing in the House Energy & Commerce Committee, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg refused to admit his company had any responsibility for the events of Jan. 6, even as mentions of his company continue to mount in Department of Justice charging documents. An internal Facebook report made available to the press suggested the company was well aware of the potential for violence due to the extremism it was observing in its groups. BuzzFeed reported on an internal Facebook report that contradicted Zuckerberg’s claims, acknowledging that “Facebook failed to stop a highly influential movement from using its platform to delegitimize the election, encourage violence, and help incite the Capitol riot.”
False claims about the election continue to spread on social media. And, there are signs that the sympathy of Trump voters for the insurrection is increasing. A CBS News/YouGov poll in July found that 51% of Trump voters regarded the insurrection as “patriotism.”
Just one week ago, the Department of Homeland Security issued a public safety notification that said false claims about the 2020 election may encourage violence, according to CNN:
“DHS is providing awareness of reports regarding an increasing but modest level of activity online calling for violence in response to unsubstantiated claims of fraud related to the 2020 election and the alleged ‘reinstatement’ of former President Trump,” the public safety notification said, according to the source.
The suspect in today’s bomb threat appears to reference the idea of possible reinstatement, but dismisses it. “I don’t care if Donald Trump ever becomes President again, it don’t matter to me,” Roseberry says.
“Talk about this revolution people, got the foundation started. We just don’t want to hurt nobody. We’re not like the Democrats,” he said on Facebook Live.
According to Politico, Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesman, said the company “removed the Facebook profile in question and are continuing to investigate.”
By early afternoon, Roseberry was taken into custody without incident.
Justin Hendrix is CEO and Editor of Tech Policy Press, a new nonprofit media venture concerned with the intersection of technology and democracy. Previously, he was Executive Director of NYC Media Lab. He spent over a decade at The Economist in roles including Vice President, Business Development & Innovation. He is an associate research scientist and adjunct professor at NYU Tandon School of Engineering. Opinions expressed here are his own.